An Explorer's Adventure inthe Borders Abbeys
In need of a day out? Discover the fascinating four Borders abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Kelso.
Step Back In Time
Though monastic life ended more than 450 years ago with the Protestant Reformation, the four Borders Abbeys still have many a tale to tell - of attacks, relics from hundreds of years past and even a bagpipe-playing pig!
Founded in 1128 by David I, Kelso was once one of Scotland’s largest and wealthiest monastic precincts. But, it suffered greatly from English invasions - the first in 1303 by Edward I and the last in 1545 - and little remains today. You can still see the two bays of the south nave arcade (thought to date back to 1128) and admire the spectacular medieval architecture. Look out for the lattice-patterned gable of the projecting porch, a real hidden gem!
Melrose Abbey was Scotland’s first Cistercian monastery. This religious order originated in 1098 and followed the rule of St Benedict, demanding severe discipline to help monks avoid sin. All feudal revenues were rejected and manual labour for monks was reintroduced, making it a principal feature of their life. But it wasn’t always peaceful at the abbey. Being so close to the border, Melrose also suffered greatly from attacks by English armies. In 1300, 1307 and 1322 major repairs were required and Richard II’s attack in 1385 led to a complete rebuild of the abbey church.
It took more than 70 years to complete Jedburgh Abbey and due to its wealth, it was frequently fought over. The abbey remains awe-inspiring to visitors and much of it continues to impress, including the great abbey church of St Mary the Virgin which stands almost complete. So, step back nearly 900 years and add this historic site to your day trip itinerary.
Dryburgh Abbey was established by Premonstratensian canons in 1150. They combined the traditional contemplative life of monks with more active, community-based activities that grew more popular in the later Middle Ages. On your visit you'll be following in the footsteps of famous Scots like David Erskine and his good friend Sir Walter Scott. Also not to be missed is the painted wall decoration in the chapter house, a remarkably rare survival of its time.
Get ready to explore!
Please remember to pre-book online in advance of your visit to our abbeys. We look forward to seeing you all soon!